In Young Guns, featured first in the official matchday programme, we find out about the next generation of Arsenal youngsters, in their own words. Next, we speak to winger Ryan Alebiousu.
I first joined the club when I was seven years old. I lived in Islington and I was playing in a tournament with Lyndhurst, my local team. Afterwards, an Arsenal scout approached my coaches and they were asked to pass on the card to my parents. My dad called them and I was invited in for a trial at Hale End. After the third session I was invited to join the club. I was so happy to play for the team I supported.
I was a right winger then and I still am, although I have played a few times as right-back or wing-back last season when we played with three centre backs. I like to dribble past defenders and get crosses and passes into the box or come inside when I need to. I would say I’m a little similar in style to Alex Iwobi when he plays on the wing. I have admired and watched Alex play for years and also when he plays for Nigeria, which is where my parents are from.
The highlight of my career so far is being awarded a scholarship but another high point is when I played for Islington Schools and we won the PlayStation Schools Cup Final. It was a national event so we were quite proud, and Arthur Okonkwo was our goalkeeper. Alex Iwobi came along to present prizes and took photos with the team and that was a thrill for us all. He’s doing so well and is an inspiration to younger players like us.
I didn’t play many games for the under-18s last year while I was a schoolboy as I had an ankle injury which recurred throughout the season and kept me out at crucial times. Thankfully I didn’t have the added stress of having to worry about achieving a scholarship because I was told prior to the injury.
It took some time to get used to training full time but I am really enjoying it. I haven’t started a game for the under-18s yet but have come off the bench a number of times.
It’s a different mindset when you're a substitute. You have to be ready, so a proper warm up is vital. I always assume that I’m coming on so I watch the opposition carefully and look for weaknesses that I can try to exploit, so I have a focus and idea so that if I get a chance I can try things to help the team.
As I’ve played as wing-back and at right-back this year, I have some defensive experience too, but at right-back I have been helped a lot by the centre backs during the game, and they guide me with my positioning and how they want me to help them.
The challenge for me now is to get regular starts for the under-18s and eventually do well enough to train with the under-23s as I feel it is important to keep progressing as much as possible.
My family live in Islington and I go home every weekend but I now live in digs in St Albans with Sam Greenwood and Alfie Matthews. The three of us get on really well and talk about football when we need to, but also relax and take our minds off it too. Like most, we play football video games and, although I don’t like to say I am the best, I must be because every time I play I win!
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